American Elephants

“Social Justice” and Other Silly Ideas. by The Elephant's Child
January 27, 2011, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Politics, Statism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Many economic concepts are counter-intuitive.  And that becomes a political problem.  It emerges in every campaign as “class warfare.”

The goal of the far left is “social justice.” They love the phrase, but explaining it is hard.  Things, they are sure, ought to be fair, and it is not fair if some people are rich and some people are poor.  It’s not fair if some people drive Mercedes and others have trouble buying a used car.  It’s not fair if some people live in big houses and others live in slums.  So “social justice” is to be attained by redistribution of income. It means not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome.

The thing about redistribution of income for the left, is that it is to be accomplished by taking away other people’s money.  Many of those who are most concerned about “social justice” are notorious for their stinginess with their own money. Our current deficit and debt indicate how easy it is to spend other people’s money.

Income mobility in the American economy is one of the wonders of the world. A young person in America, according to Brookings economists Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, needs only to observe 3 basic rules to  have a 75% chance of being in the middle class: 1. Graduate from high school.  2.  Get a job.  3.  Get married and wait until they are 21 before having a baby.

Americans don’t envy the rich, they hope to become rich.  Here in Washington State, which Obama carried with 57% of the vote in 2008, a proposal was on the ballot to add an income tax applicable only to individuals making more than $200,000 a year or families making over $400,000.  65% of the state’s voters opposed the tax. That’s not envy of “the rich.”

In his State of the Union Speech, President Obama felt compelled to raise the class warfare theme. Although he had just agreed to extend the Bush tax-cuts, he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t like it and would be back to raise taxes on the rich. Whether this is conviction or simply a sop to the far left is unknown.But long-range planning is very difficult when the government has a constant threat of higher taxes hanging over business.

Class warfare does not create jobs.  Attacking the rich or the successful does not create jobs. Government has no clue about creating jobs, they have made that quite clear.  They need to get out-of-the-way and let creative, hard-working Americans restore the economy.

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

but what if you want more than just being in the middle class? not necessarily economically more, but more space for creative thought and action. i don’t think that calls for justice are calls for class war fare at all. i think your concerns are really similar to concerns of those who explicitly espouse a social justice position — you want creativity — space for creativity in jobs and for creative expression that may emerge outside of a job. those who work for social justice think that everyone’s creative expression ought to have that kind of space. i like your thoughts, and your elephants too!


Comment by margaretaustinsmith

Do read the earlier piece linked to in the post. I believe there is no such thing as social justice. We live in a country of around 310 million people, each with their own desires, abilities and determination. There is no possibility of the most enlightened government making people equal nor of any equality of outcome. “The overwhelming majority of people,” Irving Kristol said, “live lives of considerable frustration and if society is to endure, it needs to rely on a goodly measure of stoical resignation.” Bad things happen in most lives. We can try to provide equal justice before the law, and thus equal opportunity, but it’s up to you to do what you can with your own God-given gifts.

We call it “work” because it is often hard and uncreative, underappreciated and unrewarded. If it turns out to be fun, you are unusually lucky. If you want creativity, take up a hobby. Most people move from being poor (remember starting out?), often to the richest class, and down again. Rich, poor, middle class don’t have much meaning in America except for the Treasury Department that divides people into “classes” for their own statistical convenience, and for those who engage in “class warfare.” And thanks!


Comment by The Elephant's Child

what if you want more than just being in the middle class? not necessarily economically more, but more space for creative thought and action.

Hi margaret,

When we speak of economic “middle class” we are talking about a group of people who are in “the middle” of an economic scale. That is, we measure how much money everyone has or makes and define some group as being “in the middle”.

If you were to apply that concept to creativity, we would have to rank the ability of all people to engage in creative thought and action.

I suspect that, in America, that measurement is skewed towards the highest levels. I can not think of a group of people who are having their creative thoughts or actions restricted.

In other words, we are all in the Upper Class when it comes to creativity. Both in thought and actions.


Comment by pino

What’s happening in Egypt is social justice.

Here in America the poor are wealthy.


Comment by Ron spins

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